President Obama commuted the prison sentence of former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning on Tuesday, meaning that the woman convicted of a massive leak of secret information to the website WikiLeaks will only serve four more months in prison. Manning was sentenced to prison for 35 years, a record for leak convictions (most people are only imprisoned for a few years on similar crimes).
Activists say Manning’s life was at stake, reported The New York Times: she attempted suicide twice in the last year, possibly due to her experience as a trans woman at a men’s military prison. Manning—known as Bradley Manning at the time of her conviction—had been seeking sex reassignment surgery, which the military has never provided before.
The White House announced that the decision was based upon how she had handled the reaction to her leak appropriately, in comparison to Edward Snowden, the other major whistleblower of the Obama era who fled to Russia.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” said Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, last week. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
Earnest also pointed out that the documents Manning released were at a significantly lower level of secrecy than Snowden’s disclosure. But many prominent Republicans criticized the commutation.
“This is just outrageous,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House. “Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets. President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
At the same time Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, he also pardoned James Cartwright, another government whistleblower, and granted 63 other pardons and 208 other commutations.
Manning will be released in May 2017.
[Image: U.S. Army]